Fady Joudah Quotes

Memory shrinks until it fits in a fist
memory shrinks without forgetting

As for the heart
It needs a beginning
The narrative
Burden of events

What I’m trying to say is: it gets boring when nothing meaningful is discussed about it. It’s the same thing when a woman poet writes about suffering – it’s a “woman’s tendency to depression and grief.” It’s not a human, universal tackling of something that exists in all of us. It’s suddenly a “woman issue.”

I have a problem with the fact that when it’s brought up, it’s not really discussed. It’s all that’s brought up. So-and-so is an Arab American or a Palestinian or Muslim or a doctor with or without borders and there’s really no meaningful entry into those hyphenations.

For me, poetry is a form of activism. And that word enables the labelers, and also gives them a rash.

We fall into the old stuff of textuality, and almost everything becomes safe because nobody wants to talk about what is not safe in poetry. We fall back on the psychologic, the ethnic, the quota, and serve the perpetuation of the machine.

Having financial independence does not increase one’s chances of independent, artistic creation whatsoever. Our conditioned behavior toward mimicry for the sake of market forces is an amazing syndrome. The watchtowers guide us well.

The more money you make, the more the culture already attracts you to serve it, with an aura of glitter and power, to reproduce it in even stronger ways. And you have to resist that so much if any meaningful artistic integrity is to be had.

I push back against a deeply-entrenched tendency in American culture to label quickly and no longer even examine the labels that were initially stamped on a person. I don’t have a problem with any of my “hyphenated” biography – I don’t have any problem with that at all. The world would be a better place if our thread of hyphenation were truly embraced beyond mere naming and category.

Even the art of quoting is a conservative art most of the time, in order to propel the same ideas and the same self-congratulatory importance.

Poetry at large in America is naturally a reflection of the American system and culture. That’s my possibly narrow view of it, or reductive view. But I think for as many portals for critical consciousness in the poetry world and in the American spirit that exist, there’s also an over-arching, dominant mirroring, in poetry, of the corporate structure, the capitalist enterprise.

A Concordance of Leaves is an epic poem of the indomitable yet fragile human spirit. Philip Metres brings Palestine and Palestinians into English with rare luminosity. One feels echoes of Oppen’s succinct tenderness in the depiction of the numerous characters of this work. Without other, there is no self. And that other is the stranger who must be loved. Concordance is, after all, a wedding poem-leaves and pages in search of a certain passage toward harmony.

We all exist in similar systems that mirror and reproduce the same American culture for the most part. What Oscar Wilde said about the lucky author who has a non-literary day job no longer holds, if it ever did. Artists seek validation as much as they seek money. The creation and invention of culture and canon is where most of the trouble lies.

Since so much of the poetry machine is consumed in and with the mirroring and the reproduction of what is already preexistent, I don’t understand why such paranoiac conservatism is dedicated to labels. It’s a way of controlling the “other,” to label them.

I don’t think art is in danger of dissolution or disappearance, and we don’t trust enough in its ability and power to create critical consciousness as much as we think we do.

One can say that the disaffection is still a lingering naiveté about, not the place of poetry in the world, but – how to say this – the moral and intellectual presence of poets in the world. And while this may seem an old conversation to many poets who roll their eyes and say, “Here we go again about the function of poetry,” I think that conversation, about poetry as an engaged art in a world that is full of regression or still lacking in progress, is still really not well-developed. It’s almost an avoided conversation.